CANAL FULTON, Ohio (WKBN) – They say defense wins championships. That’s exactly what the South Range Raiders used in their formula to knock off Black River Pirates Friday night 40-16 to capture the Division 5, Region 17 championship.
The Raiders senior quarterback Aniello Buzzacco scored three offensive touchdowns on the night, but it may have been his fourth score that really helped to propel the Raiders to victory. With the Pirates up 8-6 and driving deep into Raiders territory, the Pirates coughed the ball up. It was kicked and then Buzzacco scooped it up and ran 72-yards for a touchdown with 5:55 left in the first quarter. That touchdown gave the Raiders a 12-6 lead.
“I picked it up and I didn’t know who was near me, who was around me. I just picked it up and ran for my life,” Buzzacco explained. “I was scared I was going to get caught. I really just ran as hard as I could and then I looked around and started seeing my teammates around me and I figured I might get a block. It was a great feeling knowing that we now have the momentum.”
Buzzacco would again provide a big defensive play in the second half with the Raiders leading 19-16 and Black River receiving the second half kickoff. The Pirates drove to the Raiders 36-yard line before Buzzacco picked off an errant pass by the Pirates quarterback Riley Bartolic.
He returned the ball to the Pirates 44, setting up a 7-play drive by the Raiders to push their advantage to 26-16 with 6:34 left in the third quarter. The touchdown came on a 24-yard run by Buzzacco.
“During the first half, I was really getting sucked up in the run, Buzzacco admitted. “So in the locker room, my coach tells me you have to stay back because they are going to start throwing it more and I listened to him and read the guards and tackles and stayed back because I saw pass, read it the whole way and just kind of jumped it.”
“He’s done it all year,” Raiders coach Dan Yeagley said of Buzzacco. “He’s a phenomenal young man. He’s a great leader and a great football player. I’m just very, very proud of him.”
Aniello Buzzacco scored four touchdowns to pace the Raiders.
The Raiders defense shut down the Pirates offense in the second half limited them to just 89 total yards. That was after they had racked up 16 points and 185 yards to start the contest.
“We just calmed down,” running back/linebacker Peyton Remish explained the Raiders defensive adjustment. “We were all worked up, a little bit jacked up, and we just had to calm down and play how we know how to play, and do our assignment.”
“For the linebackers, we kind of widened out on the stretch (runs) and stuff,” Remish added. “But other than that, nothing much. We just played how we played all season.”
“The first half we were sloppy,” Yeagley admitted. “We weren’t getting some adjustments that we needed to. So we had to pull everybody together, and the coaches did it. They made the adjustment we needed.”
The Raiders jumped out ahead on their very first possession of the night when they quickly marched 73-yards on just 4-plays with Buzzacco running in from 24-yards out to give them a 6-0 lead. That touchdown came just 49-seconds into the contest.
However, the Pirates answered right back with a 29-yard pass from quarterback Bartolic to wing back Travis Sexton to jump ahead with a two-point conversion 8-6. That score came at the 8:43 mark of the first quarter.
Following Buzzacco fumble return, Buzzacco gave the Raiders a 12-8 lead at the 9:24 mark of the second quarter when he raced 54-yards to pay dirt. That score gave the Raiders the lead they would never relinquish as they went up 19-8.
But once again, the Pirates would respond, scoring on a 49-yard pass from Bartolic to a wide open Riley Gibbs over the middle of the Raiders defensive secondary. That cut the Raiders lead down to 19-16 at the halftime intermission.
The Raiders added two more touchdowns late in the game as Remish scored on a 2-yard plunge at the 1:44 mark of the third quarter, and then receiver Mathias Combs salted the game away on a reverse run of 7-yards to make it the final 40-16 score.
Next week, the Raiders who have improved to 13-0 on the season, will play Eastwood at a site to be determined.
“This is probably the happiest of my whole life right now,” senior lineman Matt Brooks remarked. “I’m so proud of these guys, I can’t even explain it right now.”
“It has always been a dream of mine to play in the state championship game, and to think we are just one game away,” Brooks added. “I can’t believe it.”
“That quarterback is fantastic,” Pirates coach Al Young remarked. “And Remish is probably one of the best backs we have seen all year, bar none. It’s a great football team.”
South Range vs. Black River
South Range vs. Black River x
BLACK RIVER 8-8-0-0=16
SOUTH RANGE 12-7-14-7=40
SR – Aniello Buzzacco 24 run (Kick Blocked)
BR – Travis Sexton 29 pass from Riley Bartolic (Sexton Run)
SR – Buzzacco 72 fumble return (Run Failed)
SR – Buzzacco 54 run (Taylor Kick)
BR – Riley Gibbs 49 pass from Bartolic (Sexton Run)
SR – Buzzacco 24 run (Taylor Kick)
SR – Peyton Remish 2 run (Taylor Kick)
SR – Mathias Combs 7 run (Taylor Kick)
Read more: Week thirteen high school football stories
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